Jen Charron: Control Freak


How to Plan a Day Trip in 7 Easy Steps

Day-Tripping 101

As a natural born planner, I have a list of things I always do to get ready for day-tripping. But I also love discovering new ways to get organized by finding online tools and smartphone apps. I'm going to tell you more about them as I share 7 things to do when planning a day trip.

The Kid, Mr. Organized and I love driving. My 5-year-old is crazy about vehicles, so hitting the open road is the best way for us to travel. Enjoying the ride, spotting any cool sports cars, and checking out work going on at road construction sites are all part of the experience.

During the summer months, we regularly jump in the car, drive for a couple hours, and head out for a day of fun. Sometimes we make our way to Milton to check out the Streetcar Museum. Or we go to the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara. Or to one of these destinations. And since it is a much more affordable alternative to a full-fledged vacation, taking a daycation is a great way to for us to get away without breaking the bank.

So here are 7 things to do when planning a day trip: 

1. Set Your Limits

How Far Do You Want to Go?

First things first, figure out just how far you’re willing to travel. How long can your kids stand being in the car? (Or how long can you be in your car with your kids?!?) Remember that you have to get all the way there, have enough time to have your fun, and then drive back again.

2. Pick an Activity

What Do You Want to Do?

This is the fun part! Keep your ears to the ground and use the Internet to find cool places to go and fun things to do. Even though you’re not straying too far from home, get in a tourist state of mind and research your area as if you were coming from far away. Scour Google for events, activities, tours, museums, parks, farmers markets, and more. And make sure to consider what will appeal to all members of your family. Try searching for nearby cities and towns by name + kids to find both touristy spots and hidden local gems that your kids will love.

3. Anticipate Your Meals

Where Do You Want to Eat?

When planning a day trip, we figure out where we are going to be for each meal and look to see if we can find interesting and kid-friendly places to eat. Sometimes going to a particular diner or restaurant is the impetus for the whole trip! Food Network Canada’s show You Gotta Eat Here is a great resource for local Canadian joints that serve up terrific food. And Chowhound has reviews and discussion boards for lots and lots of restaurants.

4. Establish Your Budget

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

Directly related to how far you can go and what you can do while you’re there is planning your budget. Key things to factor in are: entrance fees, food for the family, and gas costs—plus a little cushion for the unexpected. Knowing the costs of your activities and having an idea of where you’re going to eat is a good start.

5. Plan a Route

How Are You Getting There?

Once you know where you want to go, map out your route. Use Google Maps, your vehicle’s GPS, or an app on your smartphone.

6. Prep Your Car

Is Your Vehicle Up To It?

Before we hit the road, Mr. Org likes to make sure that our Civic is ready for the trip. If we are planning a day trip, we make sure that any regular maintenance is done before we go. If we’re due for an oil change, he makes sure that it’s taken care of. He checks tires and fluids and fills the tank with gas. Plus we always keep our roadside assistance up to date and the number handy, just in case.

7. Prep Your Stuff

What Will You Need to Bring?

You’ll have to pack up everything you’ll need for being inside the car and outside on your adventure. Think about what you’ll need for where you are going. What you pack for the beach is different from what you take for a trip to a county fair.

I, of course, have a list of items that I can use on any given day trip—good music that the whole family likes, our restaurant bag to entertain the Kid during meals, and the First Aid kit for the trunk. And we’ll often bring PJs and toothbrush for my son in case we head back late enough that he might fall asleep on the ride home.

Click here to download a spreadsheet of my day trip packing list. Take it, modify, and use for yourself.

This way when you head out on a day-tripping adventure, you'll be ready for anything!